The Great Blue Hole of Belize
There's a lot that makes Belize an out-of-the-ordinary travel destination. It is the only country in Central America with English as the official language (it's a member of the British Commonwealth). Nearly half - half! - of the land in Belize is either a national park or a nature preserve, making it one of the most eco-responsible countries in the region, or even the world. It's the only country with a dedicated jaguar reserve, rrraow!
Off shore, this country in the heart of the Caribbean basin has the world's second longest coral reef - with an extraordinary natural feature that gets any scuba diver's heart pumping.
The Great Blue Hole, part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is considered one of the most beautiful places on earth, and sometimes is referred to, almost in an almost primeval way, as 'the Mother of all Caves'.
The Great Blue Hole lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll less than 50 miles from the mainland and Belize City. From the air, the Great Blue Hole looks like an eye with its perfectly round shape. The hole is the world's largest natural formation of its kind; almost 1000 feet across and 350 feet deep.
Basically, it's an underwater sinkhole, formed beginning 153,000 years ago when the seas levels were lower. When the seas levels started rising they filled the cave with water. The Great Blue Hole is an enormous, maritime version of cenotes. Traditional peoples in Central America and Mexico attributed healing and mythical properties to these smaller, land-based, water-filled sink holes.
Modern day underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau made the Great Blue Hole famous when he declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. Since then, it has remained a permanent feature on the list of the best places to dive on earth.
Not only is it one of the greatest cave dives, the visibility is remarkable, making for magical scenes including coral reefs, impressive stalactites that have been compared to underwater stone cathedrals, encounters with midnight parrot fish and Caribbean reef sharks.
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